Ukraine’s major cities and infrastructure will soon be protected by the Patriot air missile defense systems that the United States is rushing to deliver to Kyiv.
On March 21, US military officials announced that Ukraine would receive the promised Patriot missile defense systems within the coming weeks rather than months.
The 65 Ukrainian soldiers training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to operate the complex air defense systems were credited with exceeding expectations in proficiency and enthusiasm, which sped up the delivery of the Patriots.
On March 21, in an interview with CNN, a former general of the US Army Europe discussed the accelerated schedule and offered his perspective on where Ukraine may best employ the defense weapons.
Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who served as commanding general of the US Army Europe, emphasized that the system needed to be installed in a location safeguarding a target, such as the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv or a port city like Odesa.
Hertling, who described it as a point defense system, predicted that some of the cities or major facilities targeted by Russia would be among the most critical locations for deploying this missile system.
The Patriot defense system might offer Ukraine a long-term security strategy as the nation gears up for active fighting in the coming months.
It usually takes American soldiers up to a year to master using the Patriot system. However, after just a few weeks, the Ukrainians could independently set up and operate the system against a simulated threat.
Patriots and other advanced air defense systems provided to Ukraine by other NATO countries are crucial to safeguarding the civilian infrastructure and huge Ukrainian stocks of weapons and equipment that Russia often targets.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon’s press secretary, Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder, said that the DoD would refurbish older M1A1 Abrams tanks to expedite their delivery in Ukraine.
In January, President Joe Biden announced that the US would deliver 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine as part of new defense aid. The US had initially estimated that the tanks would take up to two years to reach the war-torn country.
Hertling, a retired general, also mentioned that the Abrams tanks, which should arrive in Ukraine by the fall, will likely be stationed in areas where Ukraine has made progress in its offensive operations.
The retired general believes this may happen in the coming weeks using some of the other “armored vehicles” that European allies have already sent.
“[The Abrams tanks] will be in a place that Ukrainian commanders say, ‘This is where we can make the most difference in terms of attacking Russia,'” Hertling noted.
Patriot Defense System
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Moscow has launched a barrage of missiles and airstrikes against military and civilian targets.
The Ukrainian government will likely use the Patriots to protect critical infrastructure, such as important sections of the nation’s electrical grid. Russian high-speed ballistic missiles have particularly heavily struck such infrastructure.
Defense analysts said that the Patriot system performs best when employed in conjunction with other air defenses designed to shoot down or thwart drones, warplanes, and a variety of cruise and ballistic missiles.
However, air defense experts advised against viewing the Patriot as a solution for all threats.
According to Thomas Karako, the project director for the missile defense program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, one Patriot battery alone cannot end a conflict, but when combined with the German and Dutch batteries, it enables Ukraine to develop comprehensive defenses.
The Patriot is one of the highly prized air defense systems on the American arms market, employed by Saudi and Emirati forces and across the NATO alliance in Europe.
The Patriot, which cost an estimated $1.1 billion ($400 million for the system and $690 million for the missiles), is the most expensive single armament system the United States has given to Kyiv.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that a single interceptor missile costs roughly $4 million. It takes about $10 million to build one launcher.